Set in the province of Lucca, this sandy shore, one of the most extensive of the entire Italian coast, streches along the chain of the Apuan Alps from Forte dei Marmi to Viareggio. In the words of the writer Mario Tobino, the charm of Versilia, lies in the "vicinity of two opposite forces, the sea and the mountain".
Here are the famous towns which are among the most popular and elegant holiday resorts in Italy, such as Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi.
Set in the province of Lucca, this main centre of the Versilia Riviera is located in the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea and was an important port in the early 12th century and later a town of fishermen and sailors.
In the 19th century, when tourism became fashionable in Europe, it became a holiday resort.
In the middle of the 20th century, it became one of the best-known and most popular seaside localities in Italy, also thanks to the Carnival Parade and the Viareggio Literary Prize.
In the 20th century, its sandy beaches saw drastic changes and developments and the Passeggiata or promenade, rich in flowers and bounded by two pinewoods, was also established. Shops and cafes opened up alongside it, converting this city into the "Pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea".
The oldest structure in Viareggio is a military-built tower known as Torre Matilde. It was built to defend the entire district of Lucca in the 16th century. Noteworthy are the Civic Museum and the Puccini Villa-Museum. Not far from Viareggio, the Massaciuccoli Archaeological Site, near the lake, hosts the remains of a Roman villa with mosaics.
Forte dei Marmi
Set in the province of Lucca,lying near the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, it was developed as an early Roman settlement and later became the port for the marble from the Apuan Alps, that can be seen behind the pinewoods.
The name ‘Forte dei Marmi' means ‘Fortress of Marbles' and the commune get this name due to the historic old fortress placed in the Piazza Garibaldi, which is the central square of the city. The fort was built in 1788, under the commission of Grand Duke Peter Leopold I to defend the area against enemy attacks.
A favourite location for artists and intellectuals in the 19th century, with its fine villas, it is now one of the most elegant and popular seaside resorts in Versilia.
Noteworthy are the Fortino (Fortress), the Museo della Satira e della caricatura and Villa Bertelli, which hosts various concerts, shows and exhibitions.
Two of the main festivals of Forte dei Marmi are in the honor of Sant'Ermete (Saint Hermes) and San Francesco (Saint Francis). The first festival is held in August and takes places in the Piazza Garibaldi, ending with a fireworks display at the pier. The second festival is a fair that takes place in Victoria Apuan in October.
Set in the province of Grosseto, this promontory, perhaps once an island, is connected to the coast by "tomboli", sand bars which enclose the Orbetello lagoon. Its name perhaps derives from the money-lending activities of the Roman Domizi Family, who owned it. From 1555, it was part of the Spanish Garrison State and from 1815 annexed to the Grand Duchy fo Tuscany.
Porto Santo Stefano, formerly a fishing village, and today a famous seaside resort, contains a Spanish Fortress, from which the ferryboats leave for the Isle of Giglio.
Another fishing village was Porto Ercole, dominated by a Rocca and three Spanish forts. On this beach Caravaggio was killed when fleeing from the cut-throats of the Knights of Malta. In the neighbourhood there is a pleasant walk on Monte Telegrafo, the highest peak of the promontory, with a superb view of the Tuscan Archipelago and the Maremma.
Castiglione della Pescaia
Set in the province of Grosseto, it is a famous seaside resort in Maremma. The port lies beneath the Rocca Aragonese (14-15th century) which rises with its walls and towers on top of a knoll. Other fine sights to be seen are Castiglione Castello, known as the borgo medioevale, whose turreted walls are welded to the fortress and the Tombolo Pine Fortress, which stretches for 10 km along the coast. Nearby, the famous seaside resorts of Riva del Sole and Punta Ala.
It is a bustling village on the promontory at the end of the Uccellina Mountains in Lower Maremma, dominated by a mighty Fortress. The Aquarium of the Laguna di Orbetello is of naturalistic interest and focuses on the local ecosystem. On a nearby hill are the remains of a Roman Temple in which an important Graeco-Roman pediment came to light. This is now displayed in Orbetello.